Lives will be lost was the message from health campaigners, who staged a “die-in” at the entrance to Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary.

The ‘bodies’ suggested the consequences for patients in the area if controversial service cuts are approved.

Slogans such as “dead on arrival” and “blood on your hands” were used to further illustrate the risk of the Success Regime proposals.

Staged outside the hospital yesterday lunchtime, the 15-minute physical protest was organised by a group of local health campaigners via the Save Cumbria’s NHS Facebook page.

The group, who have backed the News & Star Save Our Services campaign, want to make it clear that transferring patients – including mums in labour, stroke patients and the most sick children – long distances on poor roads is not safe. There are also fears about the quality of care elderly people will receive at home if community beds close.

They are instead calling for the current Healthcare for the Future consultation to be scrapped in favour of a locally-led audit of the NHS in Cumbria, working alongside independent national experts, to come up with better options for healthcare.

The 11 people taking part in the “die-in” protest came from all parts of north and west Cumbria – demonstrating that the area will not be divided.

They included Hazel Graham, 35, from Brampton, who said she was inspired by a quote from health service founder Aneurin Bevan who said “the NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

She added: “We will not stand by and watch our NHS being dismantled. We will not stand by and watch lives being lost as a result of these proposals.

“We are holding today’s ‘Die-In’ protest to highlight just how serious the situation is. People will die on the journey to the Cumberland Infirmary if consultant-led maternity care is removed from West Cumberland Hospital.

Hazel Graham “The proposed cuts to beds from community hospitals are also unsafe. There are just days left to respond to the consultation and we would encourage everyone to have their say.

“In Carlisle we stand in solidarity with communities in west Cumbria, Alston and other rural areas who would be hit hardest by the Success Regime proposals.

“At the Carlisle consultation meeting we unanimously rejected all proposed options as the community feels they are unsafe.”

Hazel’s four-year-old daughter Emily was the youngest involved. She said: “My grandad is from Cleator Moor and I’m here to save his hospital.”

Mike Downham, a retired paediatrician, has spoken publicly about his concerns for babies and children in west Cumbria, and felt the “die-in” was an apt statement.

He said: “The fundamental point which the Success Regime ignores is that illnesses in young children and foetuses progress much more rapidly and unpredictably than in adults.

Children are highly vulnerable to additional journey time, as the critical factor in treating and saving the life of an acutely ill child is speed. Delaying treatment unnecessarily by even minutes, let alone the hour that it could easily take to transfer a child from west Cumbria to Carlisle, will result in deaths of children that could have been avoided.”

Stephen Graham, of Carlisle rs21 (revolutionary socialism in the 21st century), said: “The so-called Success Regime is a laboratory experiment on the Cumbrian people to see how far the government can go in cutting back the NHS.

“The risks they are taking with the lives of women, children and elderly people in particular are unjustifiable. These plans can be overturned.”

Henry Goodwin, 59, from Carlisle, also took part. “The people of Cumbria have chosen to reject these attacks on our NHS to fight them across the county together.

“We must continue to resist and demand not just the status quo but an improved, fully- funded NHS both locally and nationally.”

Dr Helen Davison , health campaigner and former local public health doctor, said: “I’m at this die-in to get the message across to the Success Regime decision-makers about the dangerous nature of their plans.

“At the recent consultation meeting in Carlisle they acknowledged the increased risk to mothers in labour and unborn babies of the longer transfers from West Cumberland Hospital and said they would be training staff to deal with the resulting health issues. I was horrified. This is wholly unacceptable. They should not be putting the lives and health of mothers and babies at increased risk in the first place.”

Alix Martin, Alston Moor community campaigner, travelled to Carlisle for the protest. She said: “A large proportion of the proposals relate to maternity and children’s services. Women’s lives are disproportionately being risked. Equally, as the majority of carers are women, the proposed cuts to local hospital beds disproportionately affect women.”

Also from the remote town were Bar and Mark Nash-Williams.

Mr Nash Williams, 52, said: “What the Success Regime is planning is going to destroyed all the local hospitals in effect and people are going to die as a result.

“Where we come from we’re often snowed in and there’s no access to other hospitals so if we lose the facilities people will die because no one will be able be able to either get them to hospital or bring care to their home.

“Lives are at stake here and you can’t stress that too strongly.”

His wife Bar was holding a sign that said “sacrifice zone”.

“They’re going to close Alston Hospital if they can, which means that the surgery won’t survive, which means the schools won’t survive, which means the town will die.

“Sacrifice zone is an economics term for those lands and human beings that have been designated to die so that someone else can make a profit,” she said.

“We pay our taxes in the rural areas but because somebody somewhere can’t make a profit out of it, they’re going to stop providing our healthcare. We’ve got to stand up and say no.”